1 The Parent Guide to Special Education Services In South Carolina
2 For further information on special education services in South Carolina, you may contact the Office of Exceptional Children at the South Carolina Department of Education. Updated 11/2012 \
3 The South Carolina Department of Education does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or disability in admission to, treatment in, or employment in its programs and activities. Inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies should be made to the director of the Office of Human Resources, 1429 Senate Street, Columbia, SC 29201,
4 PREFACE Thanks to a powerful and important federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, nationally more than 6.8 million children with disabilities attend public schools every year. Once there, these children work with their peers toward achievement of high academic standards, participate in large-scale testing programs to measure their achievement, and steadily learn, moving toward adulthood and the time they ll leave secondary school, reach their age of majority, and what? Hopefully, have their fair share of economic opportunity and self-sufficiency, live independent and fulfilling lives, and participate freely in the great adventure of life. As a result of IDEA, children with disabilities are entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). This means that schools must provide eligible children who have a disability with specially designed instruction to meet their unique needs, at no cost to the child s parents. This specially designed instruction is known as special education. In South Carolina, approximately 100,000 children are being served in special education. Should your child be identified as having a disability and needing special education services, this guide will serve as information you will need to understand the system, and to protect the rights of your child.
5 Table of Contents PREFACE... 4 IDENTIFYING A CHILD WITH DISABILITIES... 6 APPROPRIATE EVALUATION FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES... 7 THE DISABILITY CATEGORIES IN SOUTH CAROLINA MEDICATIONS INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP) CONFIDENTIALITY WHEN DISAGREEMENTS OCCUR FREE AND APPROPRIATE PUBLIC EDUCATION (FAPE) LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT (LRE) Parental Involvement High School Credits, Diplomas, Certificates Suspension and Expulsion Private, Home and Charter Schools Preschool APPENDIX 1 Transition after High School APPENDIX 2 Parent Dictionary APPENDIX 3 Accommodations and Modifications APPENDIX 4: Resources... 53
6 IDENTIFYING A CHILD WITH DISABILITIES Children develop skills at different times and levels. Each child is different, with his or her own strengths and needs. You should ask the school or your child s doctor for help if your child has problems doing any of the following: identifying shapes, colors, and familiar objects that other children the same age can identify easily; speaking or putting together phrases and sentences the way that other children the same age can; maintaining balance and coordination; paying attention; following directions and remembering things; or learning or doing ordinary things that other children the same age can learn or do. Ask the school or your child s doctor for help if your child does any of the following: pulls away from people, bumps into and trips over things, hears sounds but does not understand what someone is saying, spends lots of time imagining or never imagines, pulls at an ear or has pain in an ear, or wants to be alone for long periods. CHILD FIND: How schools find children who need special education services Children and youth with disabilities living in the state including children with disabilities who are attending private schools and religious schools, regardless of the degree of their disability, and who are in need of special education and related services must be located, identified, and evaluated. These requirements apply to children and youth with disabilities whose families move around a lot, such as migrant and homeless students. This also includes students who are already attending public school and are suspected of having disabilities and needing special education, even though they are advancing from grade to grade. Screening Screening is the way the school finds out how your child is developing so that they can spot any problems early. The school will check your child s general health and progress in school. You may be asked to provide information about your child s health and growing stages. School districts/agencies screen all students when they first start school and follow up at regular
7 times. The school should share the results with you. You will not need to pay for the school screening. APPROPRIATE EVALUATION FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES Teams Those who work on behalf of your child s education are frequently referred to as the Team. Under some circumstances and conditions and during various stages and transitions, the members of your child s Team will change. Those who are reviewing the evaluation information available about your child s learning are referred to as the Evaluation Review Team. It takes many people to plan and provide the help that your child needs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2004 (IDEA) clearly specifies the members of a special education Team. The parents are always members of any Team that makes decisions about their child. Parents can invite others to attend the Team meeting with them. Teachers and other professionals who know your child or who have evaluated your child will also be Team members. At the Team meeting, the members of the Team must consider all information and evaluation results to decide if the student is eligible for special education services. If your child is eligible, the Team will then use the evaluation results to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your child. For more information, turn to the "IEP" section of this Guide. Referral If your child is having difficulty in school, you may want to talk with the school about why your child may be having difficulty before making a referral for a special education evaluation. When a student shows signs of difficulty in school, one of the first steps may be to observe the student in the classroom or other areas of the school to see if changes might be made that will help the student do better. Sometimes students will do much better simply by changing seats in the classroom, or by having the teacher discuss the daily schedule each morning. Sometimes the school may suggest a vision or hearing screening. Other changes may include trying new ways to teach your child or finding different ways your child can express what has been learned. The teacher may change the way the classroom is set up or may arrange for extra help from other school professionals. These supports or changes in the classroom are known as instructional supports. You may hear this process referred to as Response to Intervention (RtI). If some type of change has been made, it should be reviewed within four to six weeks to see if the change was helpful to the student.
8 If your child continues to have difficulty, a referral for special education evaluation should be considered. You can make a referral for special education at any time. Providing instructional support cannot be used to delay the evaluation of a student. If a student is referred for an evaluation, documentation of the use of instructional supports is part of the evaluation information. The district cannot tell you that the student must go through the intervention process once an evaluation has been requested. You can make a referral yourself, or you may find that a teacher or other professional has made a referral for a special education evaluation. Referrals are made by contacting the principal, school personnel, or the school's administrator of special education and asking for an evaluation for special education eligibility. No matter who makes a referral, the parent must give informed written consent before a special education evaluation can begin. Initial Evaluation The law provides a number of protections to ensure that each student receives regular, appropriate, and comprehensive evaluations. Before a determination can be made as to whether or not a student is eligible for special education, an evaluation of the student's educational strengths and needs must occur. Referral for a special education evaluation is the first step in the process of determining if your child should receive special education services. The evaluation should examine all areas of suspected disability and provide a detailed description of your child's educational needs. The evaluation should answer these questions: 1. Does the child have a disability? What type? 2. Does the disability cause the child to be unable to make effective educational progress? 3. Does the child require specially designed instruction to make progress or does the child require a related service or services in order to access the general curriculum (such as counseling or physical therapy)? The answer to each of these questions should be "yes" in order to determine that a child is eligible for special education services. The law states that lack of instruction in English or mathematics cannot be the only reason that a student is found eligible for special education, nor can the fact that a student has limited skills in speaking or understanding English if he or she speaks and understands another language. Students also cannot be determined eligible for special education just because they cannot follow the school's discipline code or because they are "socially maladjusted." For students not found to be eligible for special education the Team should explore other programs and supports available within the school.
9 Many families are not familiar with the evaluation process. When your child is referred for evaluation, you may request a pre-evaluation conference to talk with a school professional about your concerns, what kinds of assessments (or special tests) will be helpful, and who will conduct the assessments. While the school must talk with you about these things whether or not you meet (remember written consent is required even if you don t meet), a pre-evaluation conference can also serve as an opportunity to prepare yourself and your child to better understand the assessments that will be conducted. Once you feel comfortable that you understand and agree with the types of assessments that will be conducted and the individuals who will be conducting the assessments you must provide informed written consent in order for the evaluation to begin. You must feel comfortable with the information you are given regarding the evaluation. If you have any questions, the school is obligated to answer them. Evaluation frequently includes parent input and teacher observation of the student, an interview with the student about their current abilities in school, and other types of formal and informal assessments. Evaluations are always conducted by qualified professionals who have special training and are licensed by the state and are provided by the school at no cost to the parent. The evaluation tools used will be based on your child's individual needs. Your child must be evaluated in all the areas of suspected disability. This may include looking at how your child communicates and understands language, your child's educational development, and how your child thinks, behaves, and adapts to changes. Evaluations may look at your child's health, vision, hearing, social and emotional well-being, performance in school, how your child uses her/his body, and for older students, what job-related and other post-school interests and abilities your child has. Special tests must be used for students who are blind or deaf or do not speak English well. If your child does not speak English well (or at all), arrangements must be made to test your child in her/her native language. The district must describe the evaluation procedures the agency proposes to conduct. All evaluation information is confidential and should be seen only by people directly involved with your child such as teachers and Team members. A parent must give written consent before others may have access to this information. Parents have the right to receive all special education evaluation reports before the Team meeting. You must ask the school for copies of these reports in order to receive them in advance of the meeting. A person qualified to explain these reports will be at the Team meeting to answer any questions you may have about what the results mean, where your child is having trouble and why.
10 Timeline Evaluations and eligibility determinations must be completed within sixty (60) calendar days of the schools receipt of the parent's written permission for evaluation. This means whenever anyone at the school or district gets the permission. Within thirty (30) days of the determination of eligibility for special education and related services, a Team meeting must be held to complete the IEP for an eligible student. The parents should be sure that the written permission is given to the school in a timely manner. If sending by mail, use certified mail to assure that it reaches the school. If you sign permission at the school, then the time line begins on that day. Avoid sending permission with the child, because you cannot be sure that the paper actually gets into someone s hands. Disagreements At times you may find that you disagree with the school district's evaluation. The foundation of a good educational program is an evaluation that truly reflects the strengths and needs of the individual student. If you disagree with the school district's evaluation results you have the right to have your child evaluated by a qualified professional(s) not employed by the school system. Parents are allowed to seek an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). If you obtain an independent evaluation at public expense, the public agency must consider the evaluation, if it meets agency criteria. A parent is entitled to only one independent educational evaluation at public expense each time the public agency conducts an evaluation with which the parent disagrees. Eligibility Determination If your child is found not eligible, your child may still receive help, although not special education services. If your child is not eligible for special education services, or the school refuses to evaluate your child, you will receive a letter from the school stating that your child is not eligible or that the evaluation was refused. The letter should state the choices that were considered and why they were judged not to be good for your child. It also should detail why the student was found not eligible, along with information about your rights. Read the notice carefully to decide if you agree or disagree with this decision. You have the right to appeal a finding of no eligibility. For information on your rights, turn to the "Procedural Safeguards" section of this Guide. If your child is eligible for special education, the special education services should begin as soon as possible after the IEP Team has met to determine services.
11 As the parent, you have the right to refuse initial placement into special education for your child. The school district cannot place a student in special education for the first time without your permission. Please consider this decision carefully. Special education professionals are trained to assist your child with specialized instruction allowing participation in the general education classroom. Re-evaluation Evaluation will continue to be an important part of the special education process. Your child s IEP must be reviewed at least once a year (the annual review ), but it must also be reviewed every time your child s program seems to need to be changed. At least every three years, the school district must conduct a three-year reevaluation. This means that at least every three years, the Team must consider current evaluation information and must determine if your child remains eligible for special education or if changes have taken place. Every three years the school will request your consent to conduct a three-year reevaluation. The school can also recommend to you that the evaluation information they have is sufficient to know that your child continues to be eligible and is also current enough to write an appropriate IEP. In that case, the school may recommend that no additional information gathering is necessary. This helps to prevent "over-testing", but it should not prevent evaluation that you or the school believes is needed. You have the right to say you still want some or all of the assessments to be certain that the information is current. A three-year re-evaluation generally will include all of the types of assessments of the initial evaluation. If, at any time, the district believes that your child no longer requires special education, they must notify you prior to taking any action to end special education services. A reevaluation review must be held. At that time, the Team must consider the evaluation information and can make a determination that the student is no longer eligible. As always, you must receive a letter or notice in writing about this type of decision, and you have the right to disagree or to appeal the decision. THE DISABILITY CATEGORIES IN SOUTH CAROLINA Federal law and state regulations set out categories of disability. Your child may have more than one disability. The evaluation will help to decide which one is the primary disability, but the IEP may also list other disabilities. Your child has a right to the services he or she needs to succeed in school.
12 Although school districts/agencies must use the legal definitions, the following descriptions of disabilities are not as complicated as those definitions. They are written to give you a basic idea of what these terms mean. Autism Autism is a condition that causes severe problems with a child s ability to communicate and relate to others. Typically, children with this disability will have delayed language, poor eye contact, and often do the same thing over and over. They have difficulty dealing with change, and may not want to be touched. It usually starts in very young children, and it interferes with learning. Deaf and Hard of Hearing The term deaf refers to a hearing difficulty that, even with a hearing aid, interferes with learning. Hard of hearing refers to a hearing difficulty that comes and goes but nonetheless interferes with learning. Deafblindness Deafblindness is a severe disability involving both seeing and hearing. It makes a child fall behind in development and have a hard time learning and communicating. Developmental Delay Children aged three through nine experiencing developmental delays include a child who is experiencing developmental delays in one or more of the following areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development; and needs special education and related services. Emotional Disability An emotional disability is an emotional difficulty that has lasted for a long time and interferes with learning. Students with this disability may appear to be unable to learn, but there does not seem to be an intellectual, physical, or health reason for that. They may not be able to connect with teachers or other students. In a normal situation, students with this disability may behave or feel very differently from most of the other students. They may often feel unhappy or depressed. They may manifest severe physical symptoms or fears when they have personal or school problems.
13 Intellectual Disability Intellectual Disability is a term used when a person has certain limitations in mental functioning and in skills such as communicating, taking care of him or herself, and social skills. These limitations will cause a child to learn and develop more slowly than a typical child. Children with intellectual disabilities may take longer to learn to speak, walk, and take care of their personal needs such as dressing or eating. They are likely to have trouble learning in school. They will learn, but it will take them longer. There may be some things they cannot learn. An intellectual disability is a difficulty in the student s general ability to think and reason that makes it hard for him or her to adapt to change or to solve problems. It may be mild, moderate or severe. Multiple Disabilities The term multiple disabilities refers to two or more difficulties, such as deafness and severe problems with bones, that affect the same individual. Orthopedic Impairment The term orthopedic impairment means a severe difficulty with bones, muscles, or joints that interferes with learning. The student may have been born with the condition, or it could have been caused by an accident or illness. Other Health Impairment The term other health impairment refers to a health difficulty or medical condition that affects a student s strength or alertness such as asthma, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a heart problem, sickle cell anemia, and tuberculosis or another condition that interferes with learning. Specific Learning Disability A specific learning disability is a problem in the way a student can listen, think, speak, write, read, spell, or do math. The problem is caused by the way the student learns and processes information not by problems in seeing, hearing, or using muscles and not by anything related to his or her environment, culture, or economic level. Speech or Language Impairment A speech or language impairment is a difficulty in communicating that interferes with learning. A student with this impairment may not be able to understand what she/he hears (even though he/she doesn t have a hearing problem), speak in age-appropriate phrases/sentences and
14 use age-appropriate vocabulary, pronounce words accurately, speak fluently or smoothly, or use adequate voice. Traumatic Brain Injury A traumatic brain injury is a head injury that occurs after birth and that severely interferes with thinking, judgment, physical functions, speech, or other skills needed for learning. Visual Impairment A visual impairment is a problem that interferes with learning, even when the student wears glasses. A visually impaired student may have some sight or may be blind. MEDICATIONS Some children may need medication to function in school; however, school district/agency personnel may not require your child to obtain a prescription for a substance covered by the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) as a condition of attending school or receiving an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education services. Such drugs include Valium, Xanax, and Ritalin. INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP) An IEP is developed for students in need of special education services. Your child's IEP is developed at the IEP team meeting and represents a formal agreement about the services that the school will provide for your child's special education needs. The IEP meeting must be held within thirty (30) days of a determination that the child needs special education and related services. The IEP is a contract between you and the school. As with any contract you should make sure you fully understand the terms to which you are agreeing and make certain that everything that was agreed to verbally is written in the contract. An IEP must include: Present levels of academic achievement and functional performance; Measurable annual goals designed to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; Description of how and when progress toward annual goals will be measured; Statement of special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided and statement of program modifications or supports;
15 Explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with non-disabled children; Statement of any individual appropriate accommodations necessary to measure academic achievement and functional performance on state and districtwide assessments; Projected beginning date of services and modifications and anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services and modifications. Teams should be made up of the following individuals: You, the parent(s) or guardian(s); At least one of your child's special education teachers and/or providers; At least one of your child's regular education teachers if the child is or may be participating in the regular education environment; Someone from the district who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of special education instruction, is knowledgeable about the curriculum, and can commit district resources; Other individuals or agencies, invited by the parent or the school district; Someone to interpret the evaluation results and explain what services may be needed; and Your child, especially if they are between the ages of If the plan involves services from another agency, such as the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), the school will ask a representative from that agency to come to the meeting. If your child receives related or supplementary services, that individual should attend. Under certain circumstances, one of the following team members may be excused: General education teacher Special education teacher Local Education Agency (LEA) representative Someone to interpret data. Any of these members may be excused only if prior written agreement is given by the parent and the excused member provides written input prior to the meeting. Prior agreement means agreement before the meeting is held. It is not appropriate to ask for excusal if someone simply does not show up to the meeting. You can ask for an IEP team meeting anytime you think it is needed. But it is a good idea to talk with school staff to get a picture of your child s progress before you ask for an IEP meeting.
16 Participation in the General Curriculum The federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), states that students with disabilities should participate in the general curriculum. General curriculum means the same curriculum that their non-disabled peers are learning. The IEP, therefore, does NOT design a curriculum, rather, the IEP designs the special education and related services that the student needs to enable them to make progress in the general curriculum, and to help them be successful in their life at school. For students with disabilities to access the information in the general curriculum, Teams may find it necessary to identify accommodations, modifications, or services to meet specific learning needs. In order to be informed members of the IEP Team, parents should be aware of the curriculum that their school district uses for students who are the same age and grade level as their child and understand how their child's disability affects their involvement and progress in the general curriculum. The school district must ensure that a person on the Team is available who understands the general curriculum and can be helpful in discussing how the student can participate in the general curriculum. Transition Beginning no later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns thirteen, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP team, the IEP must include appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based on age appropriate transition assessments, related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills. The first part of the South Carolina IEP form requests information regarding these transition needs of a student aged thirteen or above. Input from parents and the student is key IEP information. Now is the time when you will start planning for your child s life after high school in the areas of education, employment, and independent living. Transition discussions should include concerns of the parent and/or student, key evaluation results, and the future vision for the student. This is an opportunity for you, as a parent, to talk about your concerns and what you want special education to accomplish for your child. Consider: What information from the evaluation report seems particularly important? Has your child expressed some particular concerns or desires that you think can be helped by special education? Are there areas of particular strength or weakness of the student that you want to make sure are included? Parents and students should enter the Team meeting prepared to talk about their hopes and dreams for the child's future. If the student is able to indicate what he/she would like, then the student's vision should be clearly indicated, if not the vision will be developed by the family.
17 Also included in the vision should be a post-school goal statement designed to reflect the individual interests, preferences, and needs of your child in adult life. This vision should guide the Team throughout the IEP development process in order to create a program that will bring the student closer to that vision in a meaningful way and help the student to see how education can help the student reach his or her personal goals. For students who may be receiving services from adult service agencies such as Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) or the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN), representatives of these agencies should also be invited to the Team meeting when transition is being discussed. Transition planning and services should be reflected in the transition section of the IEP and can include preparation for post-secondary education, vocational training, employment, and independent living. During transition planning it is important to remember that when students with disabilities graduate from school with a state issued high school diploma or turn twenty-one years of age, they are no longer entitled to special education services under IDEA. Teams should begin planning for adult services before the student is no longer eligible for a free, appropriate public education FAPE. Planning for adult services, however, and completing the referral process does not necessarily guarantee that services will be available. Unlike special education, human services for adults are not provided as an entitlement and may have waiting lists, even for people eligible for services. Therefore, it is important for families to begin exploring the adult service system before adult services will be needed. In addition, the Team should consider all information including the student's medical and educational history and personal interests. This discussion provides an opportunity for you and the school to discuss what special education can do and what it might not be able to do. This part of the IEP process can also be an opportunity for you and your child to express thoughts about the educational program as it has been in the past and how it could change to better meet your child's needs. For more information on transition, see Appendix One. Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP or Present Levels) The PLAAFP is a description of the student s performance in all areas of education that are affected by the student s disability For preschool children, the present level of academic achievement and functional performance should describe how the disability affects the child s participation in age appropriate activities. It is helpful to consider the key role of present level of academic achievement and functional performance in the overall development of the IEP. The PLAAFP determines approaches for ensuring involvement in, or adaptations or modifications to, the general education curriculum. Each area of educational need identified in
18 the PLAAFP must be addressed in at least one other section of the form: annual goals, supplementary aids/services/supports, special education programs and services, or secondary transition services. Present levels of academic achievement and functional performance assists the IEP Team s determination of supplementary aids/services/personnel supports, annual goals and shortterm objectives, and state- and district-wide assessments on the IEP. The PLAAFP statement(s) should include four elements (in no particular order): 1. A narrative summary of the baseline data. Baseline data gives information on how your child is currently performing. The data should be explained in understandable terms, including areas of need and how the disability affects progress in the general education curriculum. The narrative summary must be sufficient to provide a foundation for education planning (a starting point for instruction). 2. Baseline data may be obtained from criterion referenced tests (Multiple-choice tests most people take to get a driver's license and on-the-road driving tests are both examples of criterion-referenced tests), standardized achievement tests (the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) is an achievement test), diagnostic tests (the Woodcock-Johnson is a diagnostic test), classroom performance, systematic observations, state or district-wide assessments, checklists, progress reports, report cards, student input, parent input, or any combination of the above. 3. A statement of how the disability impacts the student s involvement/progress in the general education curriculum. Such as: needs skills to perform independent tasks required for daily living auditory processing difficulties affect ability to take notes during lectures needs organizational skills for completing work on time requires assistance to interact with other children during group play need for reading skills impedes completion of work at grade level has difficulty participating in general physical education class needs skills to pass classes required for graduation by year s end behavior prevents independent work on general education assignments 4. A description of area(s) of educational need. Areas may refer to: An academic subject area such as math, reading, social studies, language arts A functional area such as self-care, social skills, behavior, adaptive functioning, organization, An area of disability such as speech/language behavior, motor functioning
19 Example of area(s) of educational needs: Charlie knows how to compute math problems, but is unable to meet the 5th grade academic standards (80% on math benchmarks) for understanding and applying problem solving strategies to story problems. He does not understand the relationship between a description and a mathematical solution. Charlie scored at the 2.8 grade level on the solving section of the Key Math test, and 4.8 grade level on the Computation section. He completes word problems with 50% accuracy. Accommodations and modifications When considering both the general curriculum and other educational needs, the Team will consider specific accommodations, modifications, and services to assist the student to reach their best educational performance. The Team considers whether it is necessary to adapt the content (change the complexity of information taught). The Team also considers whether it is necessary to adapt the methodology or delivery of instruction (change in the way the information is taught) or the performance criteria of the classroom (change the way the student expresses what they have learned). All of the changes and services that the Team identifies are written in the IEP. The IEP then serves as a resource to assist the teachers in providing a supportive and effective classroom environment throughout the school year. Services After the student's educational and functional performance has been discussed and accommodations and/or modifications developed, the Team must consider the actual services the student needs in order to be involved in and progress in the general education curriculum to the greatest extent practicable during the next year. The Team should talk about all the supports and services needed. The Team will discuss necessary services, including special teaching services, consultative services, training for teachers, and other related or supportive services such as transportation, psychological services, counseling services, occupational or physical therapy, and orientation and mobility services. The Team will specify these services on the IEP. Annual Goals Once the Team has explored the student's current educational performance and the types of assistance the student will need to improve his or her progress, the Team will turn its attention to what the student can be expected to be doing during the year in order to demonstrate effective progress. The specific goals for your child's performance will be described in a section of the IEP called Annual Goals. Annual Goals describe the expected growth in your child's skills and knowledge over the next year as a result of the special education that he or she receives. Goals should be positive, measurable, achievable, and challenging. Annual Goals should be written so
20 that every member of the team can determine if the child has met the goal, not just the specialist in the goal focus area. Annual Goals should relate to the academic and/or functional needs of your child. Objectives: Short term Objectives are required for students assessed with the SC- Alternate Assessment (SC-Alt). These students are those with the most significant cognitive impairments. If the IEP team determines objectives are necessary for any student, then they may be included in the IEP. Objectives should reflect benchmarks, or steps, toward meeting the annual goals. Again, objectives should be positive, measurable, achievable, and challenging. Assessment Both IDEA and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act require that all students participate in state assessments. In the past, participation in statewide assessments was not always considered important for students with disabilities. It was assumed that special education evaluations provided enough information on how well students were doing in school. Special education evaluations, however, do not typically provide information on what students know and can do relative to local and state academic learning standards. Information about the general performance of students with disabilities means that schools are now held accountable in the same way they are for the performance of non-disabled students. It is important to ensure that all students have access to the resources and supports needed to participate in state assessments, including students with disabilities. By including all students in state assessments, schools are more likely to raise standards and have higher expectations for students with disabilities. Including students with disabilities encourages schools to develop new programs and methods of teaching students with diverse learning styles. It also encourages the inclusion of students with disabilities in activities with their non-disabled peers. The Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS), the High School Assessment Program (HSAP) and the End of Course (EOCEP) tests are the State's student testing programs. Tests are given at different grade levels and are based on the South Carolina Curriculum Standards in English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. All students in South Carolina receiving an education at public expense must participate in state assessment. Students will participate in state assessment in one of three ways: With no accommodations, With accommodations, SC-Alternate Assessment. The Team will determine how a student will participate in the state assessments. It is very
21 important to understand how the assessment will affect your child. Some assessments may result in an inability to earn a regular state high school diploma. Please be sure you discuss all possible outcomes for your child. As part of the IEP process, the Team must determine how your child will participate in assessments. The Team first will consider whether your child can take standardized tests either with or without accommodations. If your child requires accommodations, then the Team will identify the accommodations that will be used and must document this information in the student's IEP. Generally, they will be similar to those accommodations that the student uses during regular classroom instruction. A small number of students may be unable to take standard statewide assessments, even with accommodations, due to the nature and severity of their disability. These students will be designated by the Team to participate in the SC-Alt. Students participating in the SC-Alt will not be eligible to receive a regular state high school diploma. Modifications to tests result in an invalid score and the student is counted as not tested. A modification changes what the test is supposed to measure. For example, using a calculator on a mathematics test that measures a student s calculation skills is a modification. Functional Behavioral Assessment A Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) is an assessment of student behaviors that may be disruptive or otherwise inappropriate for school. The FBA is based on observations and discussions that help to determine when and why a behavior is happening so that positive behavioral interventions may be used to help the student to develop more appropriate behaviors. A FBA is required when a child commits a discipline offense that requires a manifestation hearing, and the behavior is determined to have been caused by the disability. Special Considerations IDEA notes some special considerations for Teams to address during IEP development. These special considerations include: positive behavioral interventions, the unique needs of students with disabilities with limited English proficiency, the communication needs of students who are Deaf or hard of hearing, Braille for students with visual impairments, and assistive technology devices and services for all students. These needs should be addressed by the Team, and included in the IEP based on the unique needs of the child. Right to Review Records You must receive a copy of the evaluation report, the IEP, and other materials used to decide whether your child is eligible for special education services. You also have a right to look
22 at any other records on your child as soon as possible after you ask for them but no more than forty-five days and before an IEP team meeting or due process hearing. CONFIDENTIALITY No one can look at the records unless they have a legitimate educational interest in your child. You have a right to refuse your consent to disclose your child s records, and you have a right to be told who has looked at your child s records. If your school requires parental permission prior to the release of records for a legitimate educational interest and you refuse release of the information, the school must request mediation or a due process hearing if they are unable to convince you that you should give your consent. WHEN DISAGREEMENTS OCCUR Procedural Safeguards There are procedural safeguards built into the law that relate to many aspects of the special education process, including eligibility, evaluation, IEP, placement or the provision of special education services. For example, one of the key safeguards for parents is the right to receive written notice whenever a school district proposes or refuses to initiate or change key aspects of a student's services. Parents are encouraged to carefully review the listing or explanation of parents rights which has been prepared as one means of informing parents of their rights in the special education process. This information is made available to parents at any time upon request to the school district and is always provided by the school when an initial request for an evaluation is received and at other times during the IEP process. It is important to discuss your concerns and areas of disagreement with the school before entering into more formal due process procedures. This can often be the quickest and easiest way to solve a disagreement. If you cannot come to agreement with the school, you have the right to disagree with the school's decisions concerning your child. This includes decisions about: Your child's eligibility for special education; Your child's special education evaluation; The special education and related services that the school provides to your child (provision of a FAPE); or Your child's educational placement. If you are unhappy with any of these areas, you have several options. The first option
23 would be meeting with your child s teacher. Next, is to meet with the special education administrator or the principal at your school and try to reach an agreement about your child's needs and services. Local school districts often have specific local procedures to resolve the complaints of parents. Ask if your district has those procedures. You may also meet with the local district director of special education. Frequently this person is located at the district office. You may also call the South Carolina Department of Education Office of Exceptional Children s (OEC) Ombudsman. Parents can call the Ombudsman to ask a question regarding the laws and regulations pertaining to a specific concern. The department also has a toll-free automated help-line ( ) There are also advocacy and parent groups that can help you. Contact information is provided in the Resources section of this guide. These are two statewide advocacy organizations, for example: PRO-Parents and Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. You may request a facilitated IEP meeting. The role of an IEP Facilitator is to ensure that the IEP Team does their best thinking, interacts respectfully, the perspectives of all participants are heard, and the IEP team focuses on future action. Thus, an IEP Facilitator serves the whole group rather than an individual, and assists the group with the process of the IEP meeting rather than the content of the IEP. The facilitator is not an advocate for the parents nor the district. You may also write a letter of complaint to the special education complaint investigator located in the Department s Office of General Counsel. You must also send a copy of the letter to the district at the same time you send it to the Department. There are other more formal dispute resolution options. Any parent can use one or all of these options. More than one option may be used when needed. These options include: Mediation: a voluntary and informal process where you and the school meet with an impartial mediator to talk openly about the areas where you disagree and to try to reach an agreement. Any agreements must be in writing and can be enforced in the appropriate state or federal court. Hearing: You have a right to request a due process hearing; a process where you and the district each present your case to an impartial Hearing Officer for a written binding decision on the best outcome for the student. A hearing is a fairly complex legal proceeding and averages three to five days in length. The request must include your child s name, address, school, a description of the problem(s) you are having with the school, and a description of how you would like this problem to be resolved. Include facts in the request. If you do not agree with the hearing officer s decision, you can appeal to the State Department of Education, which will conduct an impartial review of the hearing. If you do not agree with that decision, you can go to
24 court. If any of the decisions are in your favor, you may be able to collect attorneys fees. The school district/agency may ask for attorneys fees from you or your attorney if the school district/agency thinks a due process hearing request is frivolous or brought for an inappropriate purpose. Resolution Session: a meeting that takes place within seven days when a due process hearing is requested. If the matter can be resolved within fifteen days it may not be necessary to proceed to a due process hearing. Generally, parents who proceed with the due process system consult an attorney or seek representation. For information on free or low cost legal services see the Resources section of the Guide. When an appeal over placement or manifestation determination has been made by either the parent or the district, the child must remain in the interim alternative educational setting pending the decision of the hearing officer or until the expiration of the time period specified whichever occurs first, unless the parent and the State Education Agency or LEA agree otherwise. FREE AND APPROPRIATE PUBLIC EDUCATION (FAPE) A child who is eligible for special education services is entitled by federal law to receive a FAPE. FAPE ensures that all students with disabilities receive an appropriate public education at no expense to the family. FAPE differs for each student because each student has unique needs. FAPE specifies that needed services must be provided without cost to the family. FAPE guarantees that for students who are found eligible for special education, school districts must be prepared to provide services according to an IEP beginning no later than their third birthday. If a student continues to be eligible, services may continue until the student graduates from high school with a standard diploma or turns twenty-one, whichever comes first. FAPE also means that students receiving special education services have access to and make progress in the general curriculum (i.e. the same curriculum as students without disabilities) and the right to be full participants in the life of the school. Your child is not only entitled to access the academic portion of school but also to participate in extracurricular and other activities sponsored by the school. Full participation means that students with disabilities are entitled to the aids and services needed to assist them in participating in all areas of school life. FAPE is closely tied to a principle known as the "Least Restrictive Environment."
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23 Chapter 4: Eligibility Categories In this chapter you will: learn the different special education categories 24 IDEA lists different disability categories under which children may be eligible for services.
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